“Andy Serkis’ performance as Caesar is terrific!”
As the credits rolled on 2011’s Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, the subtle hint of a threatening worldwide pandemic left the door wide open for the endless possibilities for a sequel. But while the first film felt very much like a solid origin story to the wider world and history of the Apes movies, we’re now treated to its second instalment that goes beyond expectancy and smartly delves into the consequences, misfortunes and unrest of two tribes seeking dominance over the other.
Set many years after the first film, the simian flu has taken a hold of the world population, with only a band of humans sheltered into a huddled corner of San Francisco. Seemingly at a fragile peace, Malcolm (played by Jason Clarke) heads a band of humans to search for a source of power, deep in the forest regions where they encounter an ever-growing population of apes, led by Caesar (played by Andy Serkis). But as growing rifts between family and friends descend of both beings, an inevitable war over whose the dominant species begins to heat up.
As with any film headed by that of a digital created main character, the danger of it not being engaging or believable reaches high levels. However, Andy Serkis‘ performance as Caesar is terrific. King of the motion capture revolution, he yet again demonstrates that focusing on character rather than the technical creation will always will the audience over. Strong, confident, sometimes scary but who remembers the good humans can do, he plays Caesar so convincingly that you come to relate and understand his actions, whether that be for the protection of his family, his race, or for the good of the world. Even Koba (played by Toby Kebbell), Caesar’s second in command, has just as much an interesting story through the movie as hints of Hamlet, and the story of Judas, revolution, betrayal and forgiveness run throughout the main narrative.
So much so that the apes steal the spotlight from the humans. Jason Clarke‘s character looks to bring peace between the two species of humans and apes in a diplomatic, less heavy-handed approach whereas the head of the resistance Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) rests on instincts and looking to rid these ‘animals’ once and for all. But while there is a hint of back story between both men and their respected broken families, it’s the dynamics within the group of apes that is just as dramatic, tense, frightening and scene stealing as any human character on-screen.
We’ve come accustom in recent years with post apocalyptic movies to the look of a derelict, abandoned, end of the world setting but here the attention to detail in the devastation of down town San Francisco adds to the impact of many years of abandonment. We’re welcomed into ape-camp, their brilliantly designed established fortified home and realise early on as with most Apes movies that the primate community are just as well civilised, family orientated and domestic as the remaining humans are.
It’s special effects and attention to detail in the behaviours of apes is really well performed. A special mention needs to go to Michael Giacchino‘s score which rampages through with its percussive pulsating edge-of-your-seat tone with special hints and nuisances to the Apes series of the 60’s and 70’s. Matt Reeves’ direction is brilliantly played and paces the movie beautifully as it glides along between it’s moments of poignancy, morality and blistering action. Apes wielding guns on horseback, it’s all here.
Not only should we hail Caesar, but also hail a film with fantastic performances, moral depth and an instalment to the franchise with real intelligence and precision in its storytelling.